Unlike the trend in modern media, giving the benefit of the doubt is an important Jewish underpinning. Yet, certain people in Jewish history are not accorded such respect. This includes the father of all humanity - Noah.
While the Torah explicitly attests that he was "a righteous man, perfect in his generation" (Gen. 6:7) this is somehow turned into a backhanded compliment. "In his generation" he seemed good but in any other he would have been inconsequential (Rashi 7:1). Here is the one man to be saved by God and chosen to rebuild the human race, yet his faith is questioned. Even his entry to the Ark is described as being coerced (ibid 7:6). When so many things point to his greatness, why does our tradition choose to besmirch his reputation?
Noah had one
critical flaw - his inability to change the world around him. A full century elapses between the moment he begins construction on his Ark to the moment he enters. A lot can change in a hundred years! Yet, when he finally enters,
alone with only his nuclear family by his side. In the end, Noah fails to
inspire even a single person.
Rashi describes him as a man who lacked conviction (7:7). The
strength of an
argument is not based on talking points alone. Passion is needed to inpisre.
In Isaiah (54:9) the deluge is referred to as "Mei Noach" - the waters of Noah. The truly righteous are defined by their impact on others and when they don't they share the blame. Noah's main challenge wasn't to build an ark but rather a just society. Perhaps this is the challenge of our age as well.
Rabbi Daniel Green
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